A lightning strike started a fire at an oil storage facility in Cuba, and the flames are now raging out of control.

Four explosions were reported at the site in the city of Matanzas, and nearly 80 people were injured.

Seventeen firefighters who were in a nearby area trying to stop the blaze from spreading were reported missing.

The Cuban government has requested assistance from international experts in “friendly countries” who have experience in the oil sector.

As the helicopters flew overhead to drop water, a dense column of black smoke billowed from the site and spread west towards the capital Havana.

The storage facility is equipped with eight giant tanks that contain oil used to fuel power plants.

Lightning first hit one tank, but the fire then spread to a second – and the accident comes as Cuba continues to face fuel shortages.

Adiel Gonzalez, who is nearby, said: “I was in the gym when I felt the first explosion. A column of smoke and a terrible fire rose into the heavens.”

A plume of black smoke could be seen for miles

The Dubrocq district, the closest to the fire, has now been evacuated, some having chosen to leave the districts a little further away.

Mantanzas is home to a population of around 140,000 people and President Miguel Diaz-Canel visited the area on Saturday.

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